Time Travel Booth: Afghanistan by Paolo Woods.

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All of the following photos were taken by the great photographer Paolo Woods, during his visit to Afganistan in 2002. Unlike many Time Travel Booths, this one is not about how much has changed, but rather how much remains the same.

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The UN has sent back to his village Shamsuddine and his family from the refugee camp in Mazlak where they had sought protection from the war and the drought. They were given one sac of wheat to eat and one to sow. It is not the sowing season so after the first sac was finished, they ate the second. Now they eat wild grasses.

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Qablei Rahmani is a Mirab, a master of water. This is the first year the rain is back after a long drought. His work is to distribute the water of the Murghab river to the 1270 small landowners that live in the area. The…

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Two Iranian Artists and the Revolution BY ROBIN WRIGHT – CULTURE DESK SEPTEMBER 15, 2015, The New Yorker

More: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/two-iranian-artists-and-the-revolution?mbid=social_facebook

Karima: A Day In The Life Of A Henna Girl – Interview with Hassan Hajjaj – From Art Radar

Art Radar speaks to the London-based Moroccan artist about swagger, escapism and the theatre of life.

Following the world premieres of Karima: A Day In The Life Of A Henna Girl at LACMA and Art Basel, Art Radar delves into the mind of the astonishingly versatile artist Hassan Hajjaj.

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More: http://artradarjournal.com/2015/07/15/karima-interview-with-hassan-hajjaj/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=karima-interview-with-hassan-hajjaj&from=feedblitz_403966_4985605

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LACMA’s ground-breaking “Islamic Art Now” – in pictures from Art Radar

LACMA’s first exhibition of their contemporary Middle Eastern art collection charts the expanding parameters of Islamic art.

With a collection of Islamic art spanning from the Early to the Medieval and Late Islamic periods, LACMA in Los Angeles has recently been expanding into the contemporary arena. The first showing of its contemporary art collection from the Middle East has marked a milestone in the understanding of the region’s art history – as welll as triggering debate.

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More: http://artradarjournal.com/2015/07/17/lacmas-ground-breaking-islamic-art-now-in-pictures/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lacmas-ground-breaking-islamic-art-now-in-pictures&from=feedblitz_403966_4985605

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The Life of Rumi in Rare Islamic Manuscript Paintings from the 1590s by Maria Popova

The Persian poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi (1207-1273), better known as Rumi, endures as one of history’s most beloved and oft-quoted thinkers. A handful of Persian accounts of Rumi’s life have been written, most famously the first by his son and the third, focusing on Rumi’s moralizing miracle stories, ordered by Rumi’s grandson and written by the dervish Shams al-Din A?mad, called Aflaki (d. 1360). In 1590, some three and a half centuries after Aflaki’s writings, the Ottoman sultan Murad III ordered a Turkish translation of a 1540 abridged version of Aflaki’s text entitled Tarjuma-i Thawaqib-i manaqib (Stars of the Legend). Two illustrated copies of the Murad translation survive — one, dated 1599, is held by Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace and features 22 miniatures; the other, a more lavish manuscript dating to the 1590s and including 29 miniatures, is held by New York’s Morgan Library.

more: http://www.brainpickings.org/2012/03/19/rumi-morgan-library/

miniatures, is held by New York’s Morgan Library.

Parviz Tanavoli: plenty of ‘nothing’ – exhibition

An exhibition in Wellesley, Massachusetts, highlights the work of master Iranian sculptor who has made folk and religious forms his own

Shadi Harouni for Tehran Bureau

It is rare for an Iranian artist to be widely celebrated at home, withstanding the scrutiny of a nation in love with both art and the contemporary and yet highly critical of its living artists because it recognizes the contemporary as a category imposed from the outside. Born in 1937, Parviz Tanavoli has become a legendary figure through a prolific career as artist, scholar and teacher. Iran’s first significant modern sculptor, he works in a style distinctly his own, undeniably modern, and entirely Iranian.

In bringing together over 50 years of his art in his first US solo museum exhibition, the Davis Museum has the task of engaging with thousands of years of cultural heritage, which Tanavoli draws on with fervour and ease. He neither imitates nor ignores the Iranian visual lexicon, but rather makes it his own and expands upon it.

Tanavoli is one of the handful of artists responsible for the Saghakhaneh style, which developed in the early 1960s as young, mainly western-educated artists sought to reconcile distinctly Iranian forms with the language of contemporary art. In doing so they turned to traditional forms, touching on pre-Islamic and Shia Muslim art and architecture, as well as Iranian folk motifs.

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Disciples of Sheikh San’an (1975) Photograph: Courtesy of Parviz Tanavoli

Among those associated with the style, Tanavoli’s work embodies the widest range of cultural signifiers, from the grandiose to the familiar, from the ancient to the now. His scholarship has been impressive in its scope and influence. Tanavoli has published books on locks, talismans, gravestones, horse and camel trappings from tribal Iran, rugs and textiles, make-up boxes, tablecloths, ceramics, and the magic of letters and numbers, among other topics. He is by temperament a collector, and the innumerable hours he has spent scouring flea markets, villages, and artisans’ workshops have deeply affected his work.

It is indeed often difficult to distinguish an established cultural motif from one Tanavoli has established. When one thinks of an Iranian form, one is as likely to visualise a Tanavoli as an ancient relief. The pseudo-cuneiforms covering his more recent Wall series are just as much etched into my mind as the 2500-year-old inscriptions on the side of a granite boulder at the foot of Mount Alvand in Hamedan province, to which I made weekly pilgrimages as a child.

As the country has grown more secular, Tanavoli has built up and maintained certain religious motifs as a significant part of his visual lexicon. A good example is his relationship to locks, as fastened by devotees to the lattice grillwork of Shia shrines.

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The Poet (1973) Photograph: John Gordon/Courtesy of Parviz Tanavoli

He shows the same devotion to saghakhanehs, small niches in walls offering passersby drinking water in memory of Imam Hussein, who with his followers was cut off from water before his martyrdom at the battle of Kerbala in AD680. Tanavoli’s devotion to form while excluding function releases the artistic tradition from its mythical aura.

While the lock has been a site of both ingenuity and metaphor in Iranian heritage, it is Tanavoli’s sculptures and extensive research that make it so significant. He ties in religion, myth and history with contemporary hope. He equates the praying hands that fasten locks onto shrines with his own, which sculpt them in the studio, often as small breasts or disproportionate penises.

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Innovation in Art (1964) Photograph: Courtesy of Parviz Tanavoli

Tanavoli’s fervour for Iranian formal heritage is balanced by a sense of irreverence and play that give his work relevance beyond a specific cultural context. In Innovation in Art, 1964, he cuts a vaginal opening into a handmade Persian rug to make room for a toilet ewer, a scatological object most common and most rejected in the Iranian domestic psyche. The ewer is painted after a Jasper Johns Target and the intricate patterns of the rug are flattened into kitsch as they are crudely traced in paint.

His signature Heech series, which has for years been a staple of Tanavoli’s practice, was conceived of in 1965 as a protest. The three letters of the word heech, meaning nothing or nothingness in Farsi, took form in the decorative Nastaliq script both as a protest against the empty overuse of calligraphy in the increasingly popular Saghakhaneh style and the individuals, the institutions and the market that embraced this emptiness. The many years Tanavoli has spent with Heech, and the sheer number of pieces produced with his factory-like ambition, take it beyond the cynicism of its initial protest.

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Parviz Tanavoli Photograph: Courtesy of Parviz Tanavoli

It is radical for an artist to make “nothing”. But Tanavoli’s heech is constant neither in form nor narrative. The pieces are made in all sizes and media, from bronze to fibre-glass and neon lights. Heech emerges from a box, melts into its chair, lies beneath a table and embraces another. As it takes form it grows both endearing and ridiculous. Its irony, not lost on the artist, points to his nostalgia for the figure, a need for play, for narrative, for history.

Tanavoli cannot stay on a heech hiatus. However freely he has drawn from and built upon his own heritage, he has always done so with great care. It is partly this sense of responsibility that has given him the popular status he enjoys in Iran. While it may be a source of pleasure and inspiration, it is no doubt also a burden for any artist, one he has borne seamlessly, and with grace and humility.

Parviz Tanavoli at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, curated by Lisa Fischman and Shiva Balaghi, offers more than 175 objects from the artist’s expansive oeuvre. The exhibition opens today and runs through 7 June 2015

http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2015/feb/10/parviz-tanavoli-solo-us-exhibition-iranian-sculptor

Baghdad was once an intellectual centre and a hub of world trade

Ismailimail

Baghdad was once an intellectual centre and a hub of world tradeDuring ancient times the lands now comprising Iraq were know as Mesopotamia (“Land Between the Rivers”), a region that  gave rise to some of the world’s earliest civilizations. This wealthy region, constituting much of what is called the Fertile Crescent, later became part of larger imperial powers, including the Persian, Greek, and Roman dynasties, and, after the seventh century, it became an integral part of the Islamic world. Baghdad became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate in the eighth century.

Founded in 762, the city of Baghdad was originally built on the west bank of the Tigris River. As the city spread beyond the original walks to the east bank of the Tigris, the two halves were joined by a bridge. Baghdad once stood at the centre of trade routes between the East and the West, linking Asia with Europe. Caravans and travellers along the Silk Road brought silk and other valuable items. Ivory, gold…

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SEEN in the Studio: Shirin Neshat By Sarah Trigg – http://www.vulture.com/2014/12/seen-in-the-studio-shirin-neshat.html

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Stationed above a busy corner on Canal Street, the studio of the Iranian filmmaker and artist Shirin Neshat whirred with several working film editors and assistants upon our arrival. Neshat is best known for her black-and-white cinematic films addressing gender issues within Islamic culture. She shares the space with her partner Shoja Azari*, a fellow filmmaker and frequent collaborator. Conversations in Farsi and Italian were shooting back and forth among the crew. “We are very lucky because our studio is like a community. We’re all close friends and we’re together all the time basically,” said Neshat.

Corner of Neshat’s studio that is dedicated to her photographic and calligraphic work.
Most of the studio was dedicated to editing except for Neshat’s photographic and calligraphic work area, which took over a corner of the room. Handwriting sheathed many of the figures in the photographs. Neshat has been busy with plans for three major museum exhibitions — the first opened in Doha this past November at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art; a forthcoming exhibit will open at the Hirshhorn Museum this May; and in March 2015, she will show a site-specific photographic installation in Baku, Azerbaijan, inaugurating the first contemporary art museum to open there.

Poster of the Iranian singer Oum Kalthoum, Neshat’s subject for her upcoming feature-length film. * (see image 2)

On top of her loaded exhibition schedule, Neshat has been working for four years on a feature-length film that she plans to shoot in 2015. The work is about the iconic Middle Eastern singer of the 20th century Oum Kalthoum, who died in 1975 yet continues to have a profound influence over the region. “Her music affected literally millions of people from Israel to Saudia Arabia to Algeria to Egypt to Iran to all kinds of places in the way that she sang, her poetry, and how she threw people into a state of ecstasy. But she is also known to be a nationalist and a symbol of peace. A very important symbol particularly for Egyptians today. The story is from the perspective of an Iranian artist making a film about an Egyptian female artist. It’s not really a biopic, but a very personal kind of perspective and my way of looking at the importance of this woman and her impact on other women in the region.”

Neshat pulled out a poster of another heroine, Forugh Farrokhzad, a beloved Persian poet. “Both who she was and her poetry has been a huge influence on my work and many other women. Here she is when she was young.”

Literature strongly impacts Neshat’s work, such as for her moving and highly acclaimed 2009 feature-length film Women Without Men, an adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel of the same title about four female characters and their struggle to escape oppression. “When I shot Women Without Men, there were Iranians, Moroccans, Americans, Germans, French, Belgians, Austrians. We were making a period film about Iran in the 1950s with this kind of community of people, and at times it was a real challenge, because when you make a film, all the birds have to fly in the same direction, so to speak. But we all had a different system of working. We had different habits. Like, for example, when to break, how many hours to work. Different languages. It means we have to dance around each other’s characteristics and nature of working.”

Neshat’s vintage copy of the Book of Kings ( see image 4) with iconography that she references in her work.

“This is a book I’ve used in a big way,” she said, opening the pages of a large vintage book. “The Book of Kings series from the 10th century. It’s an epic book of poems, mythological, about Persia before the Islamic conquest, and there were all these people getting beheaded, wars, and people who are patriotic — heroes. I used a lot of it on this new series that’s all about patriots of contemporary time. About how their lives are always in that place of violence, atrocity, and death.” She pointed to a photograph of a man. “Visually, I borrowed a lot of the illustrations that you see on his body. I bought this book at auction and someone had gone [in], a child, and put these red marks where there’s blood. The series I’m working on is 80 photographs, and it’s named after this ancient book.”

Neshat’s copy of her grandparents’s Koran (see image 5).

The second half of our interview took place in her home located around the corner, where more of her influential objects resided. “I have the Koran here. This is a very precious thing. All original calligraphy — all by hand — that I inherited from my parents. It belonged to my grandparents. It’s the only one I know of that has Arabic and Farsi. Usually the Koran is only written in Arabic. I’m using this a little bit for the work that I’m doing at the studio. I have a feeling this was maybe my grandmother studying the Koran, and this was maybe her homework. Sometimes she uses red, sometimes black. And that’s exactly what I do in my work. This is the only thing I inherited from my grandparents.” Born in Iran, Neshat’s family left the country for the U.S. around the time of the Iranian Revolution.

A view of Neshat’s collection of tribal jewelry (see image 6).

“I’m very interested in books that feed me a certain inspiration and films that constantly open my mind in terms of the subject matter or the style of the film — the form. I’m a nomad. I’m a traveler. I tend to pick up things here and there. I’m particularly interested in tribal jewelry. Things that are handmade by people and somehow are very ancient. To me they’re a work of art. I find them fascinating, how they speak to you about their history, and they’re also really beautiful. I’m also very affected by images. Photographs that I pick up here and there that speak to me and somehow eventually find a way into my work.”

Neshat’s collection of charms (see image 7).

She located a stack of etched metal plates. “I bought these in Iran a long time ago. They are very rare. This is where I got my ideas in terms of writing calligraphy on the bodies. These are charms. When you make a wish. Every one means something. I’m not even sure what the meaning of the symbols are. As you know in Islamic cultures, it was taboo to replicate images, for example, of the prophets, but it was allowed to draw outlines of bodies and just fill it in with words. So here, I think, is a very sexual piece of a man and a woman. He’s touching her and then there’s a fish below, which has to be about fertility. This could be a charm for someone who wants to get pregnant. Some of the writing is in Arabic and some of it is in Farsi, but I haven’t been able to make out what it means.”
I asked Neshat about her working habits and what she does to prepare for shoots. “As you can imagine, any time you start a big project, there is a lot of anxiety. You can be as prepared and scripted as you want to be, but you always wish this magic will be out there waiting for you that will help you achieve something that you’ve been really dreaming of, but you’re not really sure that that magic will be there when you get there. I think what I’ve learned is that I always arrive — whether it’s a photo shoot one day or a film that takes eight weeks — I just try to go with the flow and to be very prepared but just be expecting the most unpredictable things. Also, because we often work with non-professionals actors, the human dimension of it — you can’t really predict what type of people you will be dealing with. I just came from a week of shooting in Azerbaijan of men and women who didn’t speak the same language and had never been exposed to art. I’ve learned that tremendous bonding happens as long as you are really open to that possibility. With film, of course, it’s just like — economy. You have to be really fast, and you have to be super-prepared, but I collaborate with people who have the skills and the expertise to help me when you’re sort of stuck. Usually when you go like that it’s hardly possible you will fail entirely. Sometimes I’ll work four years on a script, shooting, and then when we edit it, it’s completely different story!” she laughed. “You have to keep an open mind.”

Listen to Neshat talk about her favorite directors, from Fellini to Linklater: https://soundcloud.com/vulturedotcom/shirin-neshat-on-her-favorite-directors